MGM vs Grokster

Tomorrow, March 29, the Supreme Court will hear MGM vs Grokster. The case will decide the fate of file-sharing services such as Gnutella, Kaaza, Morphues, et al.

Anyone who has any interest in the internet will no doubt know what a file-sharing system (P2P) is about, so I won’t waste any time explaining it.

I’ve been following this case for quite a while and I’m excited the Supreme Court will be hearing it.

One thing I didn’t know was that Mark Cuban (billionaire owner of Dallas Mavericks amongst other things) has been financially backing the legal team representing Grokster. From Mark’s blog:

“We are a digital company that is platform agnostic. Bits are bits. We dont care how they are distributed, just that they are. We want our content to get to the customer in the way the customer wants to receive it, when they want to receive it, at a price that is of value to them. Simple business.
Thats what happens if the RIAA is able to convince the Supreme Court of the USA that rather than the truth, which is , Software doesnt steal content, people steal content, they convince them that if it can impact the music business, it should be outlawed because somehow it will. It doesnt matter that the RIAA has been wrong about innovations and the perceived threat to their industry, EVERY SINGLE TIME. It just matters that they can spend more then everyone else on lawyers. Thats not the way it should be. ”

While I am quite aware that sharing copywritten material is illegal, the culpability should lie with the party sharing the material, and not with the technology the offending party uses to share said material. Stated another way, Xerox is not responsible when you copy 15 pages of a cookbook recipe that you want to share with your family. The act is copyright infringement, but the legal infraction rests on the person doing the copying, not the manufacturer of the copy machine.

What has to be weighed are the benefits of the technology against the legal infractions enabled by said technology. Of course, the legal team representing MGM will attempt to show that Grokser not only allowed illegal activity to occur on its network, it encouraged it.

Here is a transcript of the appeal that was held before the 9th circuit of appeals.

My favorite part (I know its mentioned in the intro to the transcript) is the section in which Judge Noonan admonishes the counsel for the plaintiff because of the inflammatory language he has been using in describing Grokster:

“Let me say what your problem is. You can use these harsh terms, but you are dealing with something new. And the question is, Does the statutory monopoly that Congress has given you reach out to that something new? And that’s a very debatable question. You don’t solve it by calling it theft. You have to show why this court should extend a statutory monopoly to cover the new thing. That’s your problem. ”

I know this has been a long, long, nerdy post. I thought it important, and I’ll probably post on it again, too.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    In order for songwriters to have effective copyright protection they need to have the ability to ENFORCE the copyright law against infringers. It cost thousandds of dollars to prosecute every case because it is a FEDERAL case. With billions of songs being stolen each month the only effective protection for songwriters is the ability to sue the people who are PROFITING from the theft. That is the P2P services that sell advertisement to people by offering them access to copyrighted songs without the permission of the songwriter.

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